Our final anime premiere spotlight at Anime NYC 2022 is High Card, created by Hikaru Muno and Homura Kawamoto. The two brothers also worked together on Kakegurui, a critically acclaimed series based on Japanese gambling. Kawamoto had also worked on the writing for Yurukill, a game that I had described as a roller-coaster of a plot.
With both example projects among many others that were worked on, High Card is their most ambitious project yet. Its premise centers around cardholders who are possessions of a 52-card deck. Each card gives the user its powers, known as Players, with unique abilities. Some Players form a specific group known as High Card in an attempt to collect as many cards as possible.
At least, that was the gist I got from the synopsis as the first episode was mainly used to provide world-building in High Card. Our central protagonist is a young man whose street smarts have allowed him to live each day scrapping by as a small-time thief. He has one prized possession, a 2 of Spades Card with a glass-shattering design on the top of the card. With the risk of his place of residence being foreclosed, he decides to make a trip out West in search of quick cash.
Of course, the place he would go to is a location that all but hides its Las Vegas influence. He’s introduced to an older man who has a lucky streak and it is this chance encounter that sets off the events of High Card. I don’t wish to mention every single plot detail, obviously, but I will say that the action and art style is equal if not better in quality than Kakegurui.
The anime studio behind High Card is Studio Hibari, best known recently for co-producing Tekken Bloodline alongside Larx Entertainment. Using that as an example to base their work around, High Card is just as intense in its action as one can expect. Fighting scenes and the various powers that come into play are shown beautifully. Loud music as expressive as the art style, the camera work, and the details, plus a small car chase scene (which is rare) were also present.
With an anime based around a 52-Card deck and an episode based on gambling, I’d compare it to Kakegurui, but more akin to guys with cards that turn them into superheroes. As with Trigun Stampede, Western cinema was an influence in the direction of the story, including the Kingsman franchise. What was cool about the premiere that I didn’t notice was a small set of cards left behind each seat. These cards were featured in the anime, including the protagonist’s 2 of Spades, which will offer a better visual of the character’s abilities.
I have some theories and questions following the premiere, which I'm sure will get answered, but I'm curious as to how the critical cards will come into play. I'm expecting both high and low Joker cards to be the wildcards (like a certain Persona user). In most card games, 2s are either the weakest or the second-strongest cart in a suit, with Spades being the highest-ranking suit. Therefore a "2 of Spades" would mean that the protagonist is considered an underdog of the highest potential. Who would hold the Ace of Spades in this regard? So many questions that I can't wait to find the answer to I'm sure!
Rounding out the trilogy of anime I’ve previewed, Tomo-Chan Is A Girl, High Card, and Trigun Stampede, this is looking to be a well-rounded Winter 2023 with something for everyone. For the lovesick to those looking for an action fix, January is going to be one heck of a start for 2023 anime.